Sunday, May 28, 2006

Let's Make a Deal

So as some of you may know, I am going to London/Scotland with my family (me, hubby, sis and mum) in September. I was given the task of looking for accomodation, and I've only realized now that I had 3.5 months left before the big trip. So this past week, I went looking. And looking. And getting very depressed. And getting very stressed.

Here are my problems:
  • London is huge
  • London is very expensive
  • There are about 10 billion different accomodation choices
So this past week, I was re-learning their system of how they rank their hotels and rooms, which is somewhat different than in North America. This is down partially to show you my challenge and as a reference for me should I decide to visit the UK again sometime in the future.

Hotel Classes (as I understand them, and oh, star ratings for the same hotel vary depending on the site you're looking at. It seems no one can agree on even that):
  • 1 star: you're lucky to get a bed, mattress is very questionable, and don't look to hard, you won't see the dirt. Depending on the area, it's under £50 pounds per night
  • 2 stars: you have a bed, but you share a bathroom with other strangers. Price is about £50 - £75
  • 2.5 stars: you get your own bathroom, but it's a 2x3 (literaly, I've seen pics) shower that's really a part of the room. The drain is in the middle of the bathroom floor.
  • 3 stars: you get your own bathroom, and hopefully with a tub. Cleanliness is questionable. Your room and bathroom are still closets, but they may start providng more services (like a hairdryer and trouser press in your room). About £70-120, again depending on the area
  • 3.5 stars: the place is somewhat cleaner and nicer, more services. £80 - £170.
  • 4 stars: your room is much bigger (in London standards anyways), and much nicer. £130 - £200+
  • 5 stars: living in luxury. Don't even ask about the price.
And here are the room options:
  • Single twin: one person, one twin bed
  • Double: two people, one double bed (their version of Queen a lot of times is two twins pushed together)
  • Two twins: two people, two twin beds
  • Triple: three people, either one double and a twin, or three twins
  • Quad: four people, and it's a combination of the above for beds, and also includes sofa-beds, trundle beds and air mattresses (hard to find)
  • Family room: be careful, this a lot of times means that it's for three people, not four or more.
My challenges:
  • My sister wanted two bathrooms (long story)
  • Hubby wanted to be near Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens, so he can do his early morning jogs
  • Do it cheaply (cheap and London are oxymorons)
My options:
  • Rent a self-service apartment (a challenge unto itself). Many units, despite the fact that they can house 4-6 only have one bathroom. You'll be lucky to get two bathrooms. (Londoners probably would be shocked to find out that I have three toilets in my house, and it's only me and hubby)
  • Book a quad room from a hotel. Again, the one bathroom problem, and dicey bed choices
  • Book two double rooms in a hotel
  • Book a single and a triple room in a hotel
My Goal: So I was aiming for a 3-4 star place with the combined total of no more than £150-200 per night, near the parks and with two bathrooms. At a place with pretty good ratings and near a tube station. A very tall order. (I been checking out this site a lot for reviews and prices).

So I started writing looking, writing down places, inquiring, doing more searching, changing my search criteria, showed hubby about 40 thousand potentials, more searching...

My sister came up last night (she's going on an Alaskan cruise, I seriously don't know where she get's the money. Oh wait, she earns more than me. Duh). And I presented her with my problem. She told me about a site that she goes looking on a lot. has a lot of travel deals. You put in your search parameters, and they return a list of deals. The kicker is that they don't tell you exactly what you're booking for until after you book it.

So in my list, the best deal was two rooms in a 3.5 star in the Kensington/Earls Court/Knightsbridge area for $83 USD per night. Yes, that is very bloody cheap.

So after a great deliberation and a bit of guesswork as to which hotel it may be, we decided suck it in and deal with the consequences and pressed the "Submit" button. The result.....

A Holiday Inn. And not just any Holiday Inn. According to their website, they are 4 star, and they are the largest Holiday Inn in the world. Plus, it's near a tube station, in a very nice area, we have two bathrooms, and it's a 10 mins walk to the park (hubby can probably run there in about 3).

And the total costs? It worked out total to be under £45 per night for each room (for a total of under £90 per night). BAWHAHAHAHAHAH! ROCKS!

Now onto Scotland... sigh.

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